Video Shows Fireball Shooting Over North Carolina at 32,000 Mph

The American Meteor Society (AMS) has released footage of a fireball streaking across the skies of North Carolina on Friday evening.

The event lit up the sky at around 7:40 p.m. ET and was just one of five fireballs seen over the United States that night, NASA says.

The space organization's Meteor Watch team said in a Facebook post that the fireball was a meteor that skimmed the coast of North Carolina, becoming visible at an altitude of about 48 miles above the Earth's surface.

The meteor moved northeast at around 32,000 miles per hour, traveling 26 miles through Earth's upper atmosphere before breaking apart around 28 miles above Morehead City.

NASA said that the trajectory of the meteor was slightly more uncertain than usual as all the eyewitnesses to the event were located to its west. The AMS has labeled the event AMS 5940-2021 and uploaded a video of the meteor's fiery descent to their YouTube channel.

On its website, the AMS lists 148 eyewitness accounts of the fireball ranging from the Isle of Palms, South Carolina, to Frederick, Maryland. The majority of reports were clustered around North Carolina.

One of the eyewitnesses, Edwin N from Fayetteville told the AMS: "[I have] 3000 hours of flying experience (pilot) [it was] so bright I thought it was a firework. Never seen anything like it."

While Laura G from Vale simply said: "It was AMAZING!!!!"

While an extraordinary and powerful sight, meteors enter the Earth's atmosphere and break apart on a fairly regular basis. The AMS lists 625 such events in 2021 alone, with some so prominent they are spotted across multiple countries.

For example, event 5366-2021 was reported by 636 eye-witnesses ranging from England to France when it streaked across the sky over Europe at 5:47 p.m. ET on Sunday, September 5.

A meteor is a small fragment of an asteroid or comet that enters the Earth's atmosphere. NASA says that around 49 tons of meteor material are deposited to Earth and its atmosphere every day.

Because asteroids and comets formed when the solar system did, around 4.6 billion years ago, and they have changed little since then, studying their fragments can teach us about the raw materials from which our planet formed.

Anything smaller than a football field tends to break apart before it reaches the surface of the planet, resulting in a bright flare like that seen over North Carolina on Friday.

This means that fragments representing only five percent of meteors that enter the atmosphere actually make it to the ground. Known as meteorites, the tiny fragments that do survive entry usually range from pebble-sized to the size of a fist, meaning that they can be hard to distinguish from Earth rocks despite the fact that meteorites often have a shiny or burnt exterior.

The easiest place to spot a meteorite is in the desert where the dark rocks stand out in the sandy and mostly rock-free terrain.

That means that even if anything from the meteor behind 5940-2021 survived and made it to the ground, it is unlikely to be found.

Meteor
A stock image of a meteor streaking through Earth's atmosphere. On Friday, September 24, 148 eye witnesses saw a meteor descend towards Earth over North Carolina disintegrating in a fireball. VitaliyPozdeyev/Getty